Identification and Treatment of Common Illnesses

Last Review Date: May 14, 2018

I. Purpose

The purpose of this standard operating procedure is to describe the methods by which common illnesses are detected, evaluated, and treated.

II. Responsibility

  • It is the responsibility of the Attending Veterinarian (AV) to oversee the health care program for all animals. Technical staff is responsible for daily animal health observations, as well as administration of treatments prescribed by the AV.
  • Under certain defined conditions as described herein, trained technical staff identify and treat health conditions without prior direct assessment by the AV.  These conditions are confined to those that are considered routine in nature, and which occur commonly within the animal populations housed at the University of Montana. This ensures prompt attention to conditions that are commonly observed, and for which treatment is straightforward.Training requirements includes proficiency in the accurate identification of the disease conditions described, the ability to properly administer the prescribed treatments, and training to, and understanding of, this SOP

Common illnesses covered in this SOP include

1.  Minor fight wounds (FW) in various species that are characterized by superficial punctures, abrasions and minor lacerations

2.  Blepharoconjunctivitis (BC) observed in the 129/SvJ strain of mice

3.  Ulcerative dermatitis (UD), observed in various strains of mice, particularly those with a C57BL/6 background

4.  Anal prolapse (AP) observed primarily in peri-weaning age mice

III. Procedures


  • All animals are observed a minimum of once daily by technical staff trained in animal care.  All health concerns are documented and reported through Laboratory Animal Resources (LAR).  Any significant, unresponsive, or unusual health complaint is brought immediately to the attention of the Attending Veterinarian for assessment.
  • All treatments require prior approval from the PI.
  • All treatments and observations are documented until the condition is resolved.  The health report is then placed on file in LAR.

Minor fight wounds (FW)

FW are addressed by separating animals as necessary.  FW are observed regularly until healing/resolution.  If wounds are encrusted, exuding serum, or the skin is gaping, the wound is treated a minimum of once daily with an antiseptic solution such as tamed iodine (e.g.,Betadine solution) or chlorhexidine (e.g., Nolvasan).  Typically, the FW is swabbed with antiseptic using a cotton tipped applicator or gauze sponge.  Treatment is continued until the wound is healed, usually 5-10 days.

If the area around the FW becomes swollen or infected, if healing is not steadily progressing, or if the animal demonstrates signs of depression or lethargy, the AV is consulted immediately.

Blepharoconjunctivitis (BC)

BC usually presents as swelling around the eyes with squinting (blepharospasm), ocular discharge, and reddening of the peri-ocular skin.  Treatment consists of twice daily ophthalmic antibiotic solution/drops, such as NeoPoly Gramicidin.  Ophthalmic preparations containing steroids, such as hydrocortisone, are not to be used unless specifically dictated by the AV.

Treatment should be administered until at least 48 hours following resolution of clinical signs, which is often a treatment period of 7-14 days.  Relapses may occur.  If an animal has been treated for a total duration of at least 14 days without resolution, or if signs worsen despite use of topical treatment, then systemic antibiotics may also be used, with PI approval, in addition to topical ophthalmic treatment. 

The antibiotic administered is cefovecin (Convenia®) at a dose of 25 mg/kg, given subcutaneously.  The injection is administered weekly, not to exceed two injections, one week apart.  If signs persist one week following the second injection, the AV and PI are consulted regarding a decision to continue treatment versus euthanasia.

Ulcerative dermatitis

UD usually presents as hair loss (alopecia), small scabs (excoriations) and itching (pruritis), especially around the head, neck and ears, with expansion to other parts of the body, such as the dorsum.  When UD is identified, treatment should be initiated promptly to prevent progression of the lesions. 

Immediate treatment consists of trimming the rear toenails. 

Once permission for treatment is obtained from the PI, use Vetericyn VF spray as soon as an open sore or wound is noticed. Vetericyn kills 99.9% of infections in 30 seconds, thus making it a good topical for a variety of skin infections and wounds. Vetericyn acts by increasing the oxygen supply to the wound for rapid healing.

In other cases, repeat applications of topical chlorhexidene cream may be applied directly to UD lesions, once daily for 5-8 days.

Anal prolapse

AP is observed in various species of animals.  It most often occurs during the peri-weaning period as a reflection of the various stresses associated with weaning.  With a persistent prolapse, the everted tissues of the rectum may become dehydrated, inflamed, and infected.  Therefore, prolapses should be treated to obtain rapid resolution and avoidance of these complications.

Prolapses can be treated once daily for approximately 5 days with an ointment, such as A and D, or Preparation H.  These ointments will keep tissues moist, reduce swelling, and promote reduction of the prolapsed tissues.

If a prolapse does not resolve within approximately 7 days, or gets worse during treatment, the AV should be consulted.